Lack of Minority Representation in Science and Engineering Endangering US Economic Health

By Jan Zverina

July 26, 2012

We need to “combat the loss of the precious few,” Richard Tapia tells attendees at XSEDE12 conference.

Rapid growth in certain segments of the nation’s population is pushing the country’s educational challenges to a crisis level, while too many of the “precious few” under-represented minority students pursuing science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) disciplines are dropping out or changing majors, according to Richard Tapia, an internationally known mathematician.

“Our concern with under-representation today does not stem from moral or ethical issues,” Tapia, a professor in the Department of Computational and Applied Mathematics at Rice University said during his keynote address to attendees of XSEDE12, this year’s conference of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF)  Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) program in Chicago.

“It’s a simple matter of the nation’s survival,” said Tapia, also director of XSEDE’s Scholars Program, adding that such an equitable representation “is to make the country healthy and the leadership healthy.”

Tapia, a Mexican American born in Los Angeles – and the first native born Latino to win the National Medal of Science – said that under-represented minorities growing up in the United States who are interested in science, engineering, or mathematics often face what he called an “identity crisis,” while noting the extremely low number of under-represented minority (URM) graduate students in STEM departments among the nation’s top research universities.

He said those students often encounter “a sink or swim” culture, and have no support mechanisms at those leading research schools. Often they lose confidence, causing them to migrate to non-STEM majors.

“They may graduate, but not in their intended major, and that means they are lost to research science,” Tapia told XSEDE12 attendees. “We depend too much on minority-serving institutions to solve the under-representation problem, but all universities must be a part of the solution. If we URMs are to be an effective component in U.S. STEM leadership, then we must have equitable presence as students and faculty at the top research universities.”

Tapia said the problem has been exacerbated by the fact that Hispanics – currently the fastest growing segment of the nation’s population – continue to be the least educated.  He said that in 2006, Hispanics made up 14.8 percent of the U.S. population, while Asians as a group made up only 4.4 percent. Yet Hispanics made up less than 2.4 percent of the nation’s academic “pipeline” in STEM-related disciplines, while Asians, which he does not consider to be URMs in STEM, accounted for more than 17.5 percent.

“There are good jobs, but we URMs tend not to train in the areas where there are jobs,” he said, adding that “the rate at which this population is growing is outpacing the rate at which we as a nation are improving our effectiveness in educating this segment of the population.”

Affirmative Action, ‘Separate but Equal’, and “Diversity”

Tapia, in his remarks, touched on several areas that have actually hampered the success of under-represented minorities, both within and outside the academic community.

On affirmative action:

“Some progress was made, but not enough. After 40 years the nation got tired.  We don’t want reverse discrimination, and we don’t want lowering of standards. So affirmative action died; it probably should have died and we did not do a good job with it. Instead, affirmative action should have been an evaluation of the evaluation process and modifications made so that it could identify those who would succeed.”

On ‘Separate but Equal’:

“America’s solution technique to correct for denied education has been to propose separate but equal activities. Separate but equal is always separate but never equal. And separate but not equal is destroying the country and will continue to do so if we don’t change this way of doing business.”

On “Diversity” versus “Under-represented”:

“The two are not the same, but today we stay away from the politically incorrect term ‘under-representation’ and use the politically correct term ‘diversity.’  We do this with serious negative consequences for under-representation Today’s research universities are very ‘diverse’ in terms of faculty and graduate students. However representation of members from underrepresented groups is non-existent. ‘Diversity’ is a word that you can pick up and sweep the dirt underneath.”

In summarizing his remarks, Tapia said he believes the economic health of the country is based in large measure upon technical advances, but that the nation must find a way to incorporate the growing population of under-represented minorities into the mainstream of scientific and technical endeavors. In response to a student’s question following his talk, Tapia said: “Be a professional who happens to be a minority or woman. Don’t be professional minority,” adding “strong credentials will take you wherever you want to go.”

About Richard Tapia

Tapia is a mathematician and professor in the Department of Computational and Applied Mathematics at Rice University in Houston, Texas. He is internationally known for his research in the computational and mathematical sciences and is a national leader in education and outreach programs. Tapia’s current Rice positions are University Professor; Maxfield-Oshman Professor in Engineering; and Director of the Center for Excellence and Equity in Education. His complete biography is at http://www.caam.rice.edu/~rat/brief_bio.html.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

IBM Launches Commercial Quantum Network with Samsung, ORNL

December 14, 2017

In the race to commercialize quantum computing, IBM is one of several companies leading the pack. Today, IBM announced it had signed JPMorgan Chase, Daimler AG, Samsung and a number of other corporations to its IBM Q Net Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

TACC Researchers Test AI Traffic Monitoring Tool in Austin

December 13, 2017

Traffic jams and mishaps are often painful and sometimes dangerous facts of life. At this week’s IEEE International Conference on Big Data being held in Boston, researchers from TACC and colleagues will present a new Read more…

By HPCwire Staff

AMD Wins Another: Baidu to Deploy EPYC on Single Socket Servers

December 13, 2017

When AMD introduced its EPYC chip line in June, the company said a portion of the line was specifically designed to re-invigorate a single socket segment in what has become an overwhelmingly two-socket landscape in the d Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Explore the Origins of Space with COSMOS and Memory-Driven Computing

From the formation of black holes to the origins of space, data is the key to unlocking the secrets of the early universe. Read more…

Microsoft Wants to Speed Quantum Development

December 12, 2017

Quantum computing continues to make headlines in what remains of 2017 as several tech giants jockey to establish a pole position in the race toward commercialization of quantum. This week, Microsoft took the next step in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Launches Commercial Quantum Network with Samsung, ORNL

December 14, 2017

In the race to commercialize quantum computing, IBM is one of several companies leading the pack. Today, IBM announced it had signed JPMorgan Chase, Daimler AG, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Wins Another: Baidu to Deploy EPYC on Single Socket Servers

December 13, 2017

When AMD introduced its EPYC chip line in June, the company said a portion of the line was specifically designed to re-invigorate a single socket segment in wha Read more…

By John Russell

Microsoft Wants to Speed Quantum Development

December 12, 2017

Quantum computing continues to make headlines in what remains of 2017 as several tech giants jockey to establish a pole position in the race toward commercializ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Iron, Soft, Data, People – It Takes an Ecosystem!

December 11, 2017

Cutting edge advanced computing hardware (aka big iron) does not stand by itself. These computers are the pinnacle of a myriad of technologies that must be care Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

IBM Begins Power9 Rollout with Backing from DOE, Google

December 6, 2017

After over a year of buildup, IBM is unveiling its first Power9 system based on the same architecture as the Department of Energy CORAL supercomputers, Summit a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Microsoft Spins Cycle Computing into Core Azure Product

December 5, 2017

Last August, cloud giant Microsoft acquired HPC cloud orchestration pioneer Cycle Computing. Since then the focus has been on integrating Cycle’s organization Read more…

By John Russell

GlobalFoundries, Ayar Labs Team Up to Commercialize Optical I/O

December 4, 2017

GlobalFoundries (GF) and Ayar Labs, a startup focused on using light, instead of electricity, to transfer data between chips, today announced they've entered in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE In-Memory Platform Comes to COSMOS

November 30, 2017

Hewlett Packard Enterprise is on a mission to accelerate space research. In August, it sent the first commercial-off-the-shelf HPC system into space for testing Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

US Coalesces Plans for First Exascale Supercomputer: Aurora in 2021

September 27, 2017

At the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee (ASCAC) meeting, in Arlington, Va., yesterday (Sept. 26), it was revealed that the "Aurora" supercompute Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

NERSC Scales Scientific Deep Learning to 15 Petaflops

August 28, 2017

A collaborative effort between Intel, NERSC and Stanford has delivered the first 15-petaflops deep learning software running on HPC platforms and is, according Read more…

By Rob Farber

Oracle Layoffs Reportedly Hit SPARC and Solaris Hard

September 7, 2017

Oracle’s latest layoffs have many wondering if this is the end of the line for the SPARC processor and Solaris OS development. As reported by multiple sources Read more…

By John Russell

AMD Showcases Growing Portfolio of EPYC and Radeon-based Systems at SC17

November 13, 2017

AMD’s charge back into HPC and the datacenter is on full display at SC17. Having launched the EPYC processor line in June along with its MI25 GPU the focus he Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Japan Unveils Quantum Neural Network

November 22, 2017

The U.S. and China are leading the race toward productive quantum computing, but it's early enough that ultimate leadership is still something of an open questi Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

GlobalFoundries Puts Wind in AMD’s Sails with 12nm FinFET

September 24, 2017

From its annual tech conference last week (Sept. 20), where GlobalFoundries welcomed more than 600 semiconductor professionals (reaching the Santa Clara venue Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Amazon Debuts New AMD-based GPU Instances for Graphics Acceleration

September 12, 2017

Last week Amazon Web Services (AWS) streaming service, AppStream 2.0, introduced a new GPU instance called Graphics Design intended to accelerate graphics. The Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

IBM Begins Power9 Rollout with Backing from DOE, Google

December 6, 2017

After over a year of buildup, IBM is unveiling its first Power9 system based on the same architecture as the Department of Energy CORAL supercomputers, Summit a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Perspective: What Really Happened at SC17?

November 22, 2017

SC is over. Now comes the myriad of follow-ups. Inboxes are filled with templated emails from vendors and other exhibitors hoping to win a place in the post-SC thinking of booth visitors. Attendees of tutorials, workshops and other technical sessions will be inundated with requests for feedback. Read more…

By Andrew Jones

EU Funds 20 Million Euro ARM+FPGA Exascale Project

September 7, 2017

At the Barcelona Supercomputer Centre on Wednesday (Sept. 6), 16 partners gathered to launch the EuroEXA project, which invests €20 million over three-and-a-half years into exascale-focused research and development. Led by the Horizon 2020 program, EuroEXA picks up the banner of a triad of partner projects — ExaNeSt, EcoScale and ExaNoDe — building on their work... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Delays, Smoke, Records & Markets – A Candid Conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro

October 5, 2017

Earlier this month, Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire and I had a very personal conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro. Cray has been on something of a Cinderell Read more…

By Tiffany Trader & Tom Tabor

Tensors Come of Age: Why the AI Revolution Will Help HPC

November 13, 2017

Thirty years ago, parallel computing was coming of age. A bitter battle began between stalwart vector computing supporters and advocates of various approaches to parallel computing. IBM skeptic Alan Karp, reacting to announcements of nCUBE’s 1024-microprocessor system and Thinking Machines’ 65,536-element array, made a public $100 wager that no one could get a parallel speedup of over 200 on real HPC workloads. Read more…

By John Gustafson & Lenore Mullin

Flipping the Flops and Reading the Top500 Tea Leaves

November 13, 2017

The 50th edition of the Top500 list, the biannual publication of the world’s fastest supercomputers based on public Linpack benchmarking results, was released Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Launches Software Tools to Ease FPGA Programming

September 5, 2017

Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) have a reputation for being difficult to program, requiring expertise in specialty languages, like Verilog or VHDL. Easin Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Chips – A Veritable Smorgasbord?

October 10, 2017

For the first time since AMD's ill-fated launch of Bulldozer the answer to the question, 'Which CPU will be in my next HPC system?' doesn't have to be 'Whichever variety of Intel Xeon E5 they are selling when we procure'. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This